- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2007

The rush to anoint the Celtics the Beast of the Least is understandable, even if it fails to acknowledge the importance of continuity, chemistry and familiarity with a system previously designed to throw games.

The union of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen is compelling to a point, although the rest of the team”s roster is wanting. It is doubtful Eddie House keeps opposing coaches up at night.

I recently fell into this debate with a drunk on the strip. Or at least I assumed he was drunk after he suggested the Celtics would win 65 games this season. Or perhaps he was having psychedelic-induced flashbacks of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

Picking which teams are which is fairly easy stuff in October unless you are John Hollinger, the espn.com statistical guru who rates teams according to how they play under the various stages of the moon, tidal charts and low-pressure fronts, which he then divides into El Nino to come up with a magic number.


Hollinger employed all his technical measures on the Wizards and earmarked them for about five victories this season, six if they get lucky.

That is not even barring injury, for Hollinger is able to compare x with y and see that Gilbert Arenas will miss as many as 50 games this season after being hit by a bus.

I am going to differ with Hollinger, among others, and my exhausting formulations involve nothing more than stepping out the front door and sticking my finger into the air to see which way the wind is blowing.

Bulls, Wizards, Raptors and Pistons.

Those are my top four teams in the Eastern Conference, barring injury, of course.

I do not predict injuries or games lost to suspension, the flu and women looking to serve legal papers on the father of a newborn.

Basketball is complex enough without adding the fiscal secrecy of Shaquille O’Neal’s wife into an outlook on the Heat.

Who could have predicted last year at this time that Carmelo Anthony would be caught backpedaling out of Madison Square Garden because of the rabid Jared Jeffries, who was packing nothing more dangerous than the two eyes rolled up into the back of his head?

Anthony’s romp was reminiscent of the time Brendan Haywood felt a need to scoot out of the way of an angry Antonio Davis in a preseason game three years ago.

If prodded, I would give the edge to Anthony if he and Haywood ever were invited to hold a backpedaling race as part of the All-Star Game festivities.

I never thought Kobe Bryant would develop a serious nervous tic in his shooting form that would result in defenders being slapped in the face after he would release the ball.

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